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26 reviews in total 
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22 out of 27 people found the following review useful:
Involving, watchable, grown-up - sound like your kind of movie?, 11 November 2013

I enjoyed this story of a lengthy midlife love affair, "based on" (that is, "not cemented to the known facts of") real women of some mid-century renown. One, American poet Elizabeth Bishop, is quiet, slow to warm to strangers or share working drafts of her poems. See if Miranda Otto doesn't remind you of Deborah Kerr in her memorable 1940s and '50s roles (and clothes). In Brazil to visit an old college friend, Elizabeth meets Lota de Macedo Soares, a charismatic commander of attention and glamorously trousered architect. They become lovers and make their life in Brazil. All the characters, including a close male friend of Lota's and one of Elizabeth's, are revelations in the best sense: mature but unfinished adults, they meet their circumstances over nearly 20 years in ways not even they might be able to predict. Mark Twain said that fiction is obliged to meet our expectations but the truth isn't. Central Casting can provide "types," but history offers people like nobody else, which is why you'll find discussions here and elsewhere complaining that these lesbians were not put through their proper lesbian plot paces! The drunks were sometimes sober! People got depressed without enough foreshadowing! Ignore all that. This is a good quiet story, mostly but not all sad, about people learning themselves as they go, living genuinely if not always bravely.

And anyone who's ever dreamed of having a writer's sanctuary will fall rapturously in love with the al fresco study Lota builds for Elizabeth. Must be seen to be appreciated!

4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Snap, crackle, pop . . . smile, 10 December 2012

This fast, fizzy, deft comedy skirts the Code so nimbly that I couldn't tell just by watching (on TCM this morning, thanks for the thousandth time TCM) whether it's pre- or post-Code. I appreciated so many unsung, supporting, and subtextual things about this ur-romcom that I can't mention them all here. In order of surprise/urgency, the top 5 are:

1. Otto Kruger! Here is the man who clearly should gotten all those roles wasted on Warren Williams - what were producers thinking? (Were they thinking?) They look about the same age, yet Otto's handsomer, less tedious, and possessed of actual romantic and comic acting chops.

2. The writing! Cattiness among beauticians, and the delectable Alice Brady brand of un-self-awareness: "I'm very intuitive." Her literal kiss-off scene with Kruger has never been done better in a comedy, not even by Meryl Streep and *insert leading man here*.

3. The bad boyfriend! An almost complex portrait of a goofball who clearly doesn't deserve the leading lady, but not because he's a bad guy. He's not all good, either. He's just not grown up. It's a forgiving, shaded character, played by Eddie Nugent with a subtlety usually missing from lame runner-up lover roles.

4. The slapstick! I don't care how many takes they went through to print the change-of-driver-in-real-estate-agent's-car scene. The result is totally worth it. I'm actually surprised I've never seen this bit in a TCM montage of silly scenes.

5. Madge Evens! Una Merkel! Listed low, but only for the surprise factor. Both are at or near their very best here. Miss Merkel never gets enough credit for delivering both sides of a double-entendre grilled to smoking hot perfection. Miss Evans does more-or-less blameless ingenue so well it's not boring - this is Carole Lombard territory, and she nails it, sweetly and demurely (well, mostly demurely, see no. 4).

5 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
What were these A-listers thinking?!??, 9 September 2010

This is a mess of a movie that, frankly, should not have been made, especially not by a pro's pro like Wellman, not even as a favor to the dependably phenomenal Miss Stanwyck. Italian grand opera has never featured a plot gone this far off the rails. Nor are any of opera's leading saints or scoundrels accorded the admiration plainly directed at the leads in this film, who show less common sense, valor, or candor than Wile E. Coyote brings to a bad day on the mesa.

I won't spoil this turkey for intrepid or optimistic viewers, but I will note that the story nods (so quickly you might miss it) to an entire off-screen family whose existence, if contemplated for more than 10 seconds by any character, would've given some interesting version of this film a problem and points of view worth watching.

"Reefer Madness" handled continuity better than this. Many of the lavish costumes are out of place on relatively bare sets. Joel McCrea's mustache, for heaven's sake, looks like it's about to slip off his handsome face through many scenes!

Turner Classic, bless them, just showed this, earning my continued thanks for gallantly refusing to do my quality control for me.

5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Two career curves intersect on the back lot:, 14 April 2010

Never mind what this movie is "about" -- it delivers as much useful information about real life as any studio product of its day. The treat, 75 years after it was cooked up, is watching Chester Morris at the top of his game, probably not aware he's about to slip off the peak, just as Robert Taylor learns his way up the ropes of stardom. Hindsight tells us the fast-talking, brisk, athletic, shiny-haired Morris was quickly eclipsed by mellower, moodier, skinnier, equally handsome guys like Taylor, yet the performances here don't explain why or how. Chester Morris delivers the goods, hackneyed as they are; Robert Taylor poses more than he acts. Guess there's no accounting for tastes or headstrong producers.

The story line stays out of the way of this transition, as the two interns played by the actors are rivals in love almost by accident and don't fight each other for the ethereally lovely Virginia Bruce.

Bonus: I like Bruce more every time I see another of her movies. She's overdue for a birthday tribute on TCM.

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Who's that girl? Where did she go?, 26 March 2009

I'm so disappointed there are no acting credits here for this little movie. It just screened on TCM, which has no credit info, either. Workmanlike acting from the grownups and decent production values put a sturdy floor under this brief treacly tale of an orphaned girl, perhaps 7 or 8 years old, who goes to the home of a kind sweet couple. They love her and very much want her to stay, but they wait for her to decide for herself not to remain an orphan.

This girl's got chops! a direct intensity and an affecting (not affected) voice. The director knew it, too, and gives her some riveting close-ups. At first glimpse, in pigtailed profile, she looks a lot like the very young Natalie Wood in "Tomorrow Is Forever" (1946), but I'm fairly certain the voice and skin tone are someone else's. But whose? I feel sure if she'd gone on to make more films at any age, we'd know her name.

I hope some reader of this little review will take it into the MGM archive and emerge with a cast list.

0 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Is this a John Ford, a Howard Pyle, or an N.C. Wyeth picture?, 11 December 2007

Ford accomplished something stunning -- he's out of his own exalted league, really -- with the look and feel of this film. Almost every frame is a Technicolor-drenched pictorial tribute to the golden age of boys' adventure-story illustration, an era crowned by the lush, densely detailed book and magazine work of Pyle and Wyeth, which was fading away just as Hollywood got the pictures "moving" in the 1910s. None of the John Wayne-John Ford films I've seen, not even "The Quiet Man," is as compelling visually as this movie, which comes as close to delivering 24 frames a second of tableaux vivants or Saturday Evening Post covers as anything ever projected onto a screen.

A few of the performers are good, notably Claudette Colbert (a tad more disheveled than usual) and Edna May Oliver (much warmer and more endearing than ever). Most of the other talent, even Fonda's, is wasted in the service of dreadful, endless clichés about jug liquor, savage savages, love of the flag, good guys outrunning bad guys, preachers taking up muskets for Jesus, even an African-American servant who seems to be there merely as a perk of the two stars' top billing. Ford makes a much better director than a history teacher, and it frosts me that so many American moviegoers won't or can't see the difference.

All 6 of my stars are for the cinematography, costumes, lighting, blocking, and every other ingredient of the gorgeous set pieces of "Drums." The story, sad to say, just blows.

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Diary of a Mad '50s Hausfrau, 27 August 2007

As entertainment, this is a forgettable film. As cultural history, it's not to be missed!

Onetime career woman Loretta Young is the serene, doting mistress of an eerily perfect suburban home. It's a quiet, lonely, exceedingly neat life -- she performs her household chores as though they were sacraments -- until her mopey husband takes a turn for the paranoid. (In fairness to him, she seems to have a better relationship with her various appliances than with her spouse.)

Then Loretta's paranoia takes center stage, and this movie gets its reason for being. She gives an over-the-top performance that, perversely I guess, reminds me of Divine's forlorn housewife in "Polyester." Sweating and trembling until you want to reach out and hand her a martini, Loretta embodies the certainty that her pathetic nutjob husband can and will persuade the world that she's a monster. In 1951, who's to say her assumption was foolish?

Short as this movie is, its story would have taken less than one-third of its running time if any character had had the presence of mind to say "Snap out of it!" to almost any of the others.

In some of the best Fifties movies, everybody looked safe and serene on the outside, wrecked and doomed on the inside, and on this score "Cause for Alarm" would make a great double feature with the original "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Hitchcock must have been smarter than his fans . . ., 25 June 2007

. . . so many of whom are wailing here about being cheated out of "their" preferred Hitch. They demand better suspense! wimpier blonder heroines! a better century! Honestly, folks, Baskin-Robbins can have 31 flavors of ice cream, but Alfred Hitchcock can't have more than one flavor of suspense?

I liked this movie. It's not a thriller, and surely not for the kiddies. It is a multi-character study of depth (and, I'll admit, predictability). Not all the considerable bondage involves ropes and scarves; most of it's social -- painful, constraining, and unattackable as a knot behind one's back. This is, for me, Laughton's creepiest role ever, and that's saying something. He was actually hard to look at. (Am I the only one who got subtle hints that his galloping madness owed something to syphilis?) Almost everyone in the cast contributes some glint of acting genius or gravitas to this Gothic tale of moral choice and social submission. In addition to O'Hara and Newton, who are both outstanding, I have to single out Marie Ney (Aunt Patience), in a role they don't write for women of any age any more, and Horace Hodges (Chadwick, the butler), whose eloquent silence closes out this fine movie.

Pi (1998)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
This movie is about . . . what?, 5 April 2007

Interesting commenters' split here: is this movie about math or about painfully rare ways of understanding reality? Count me among those who understand "Pi" as a movie about mental illness, one of the 2 or 3 best ever made. I won't disagree w/ the folks who say it's about math or mathematicians, but it sure wasn't for me. I gained no new mathematical insights fr/ this film, but I did get weeks' & acres' worth of different new ways to consider how scary and difficult life must be for folks who do not apprehend the world as I (and I think most of us) do.

One other thing this movie was about? Ben Shenkman's acting genius! I saw "Pi" when it was first released - in an art house, duh - and years later, after watching "Angels in America" on HBO, I was belatedly blown away when someone pointed out to me that Louis was the Guy from Pi. His range leaves me speechless. If Brando and Olivier were still here, they'd be jealous.

Fame (1980)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
The Movie Electric, 5 January 2007

If the energy from this movie doesn't enter your system and light you up, please turn yourself in for an autopsy NOW.

I saw "Fame" in its first release (btw, a movie released in 1980 isn't an '80s movie, it's a '70s movie) and couldn't sleep for at least a day. Dramatically it's a bit uneven, tho' storyline strengths knit it together well, but the music comes to the rescue every time. Interestingly, the "impromptu" street and cafeteria jams are no better (but every bit as good) as the staged choral numbers, which really are the full-throated heart of the movie.

If you're looking for a movie that reminds you of high school, or even of your high school play, you'll more than likely be disappointed. If you want powerful music from energetic singers, this is your show -- "42nd Street" for kids not lucky enough (hah!) to have lived through the Depression. And yes, I think it would make an xlnt double bill with "42nd Street." 8/10.

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